Now, more than ever, you need to be vigilant about the news you are sending around.
It’s not simply good enough to send something, be called out for spreading misinformation, and then say ‘oh, it was sent to me by XYZ, sorry’.
Worse still, I see people sharing misinformation on social media, being called out on it, and not deleting the post with the misinformation.
Before you forward something on via WhatsApp, or post to social media – I cannot believe I have to say this – use Google, and use common sense, and think carefully about whether or not you’re actually helping the current situation.
A good case in point is the recent WhatsApp voicenote that did the rounds this past weekend (and is still doing the rounds), purporting to be from Dr Diana Hardie, a top expert at Groote Schuur Hospital.
The nearly 16-minute long voicenote (already a crime, because there is no need to send 16-minute long voicenotes) was sent around with the following message:
“This is a voice note from Diana Hardie the Head of Virology, Grooteschuur Hospital, Cape Town. It’s her latest data on the Corona Virus and what she is preparing for… it’s doesn’t predict a pretty short term future… (sic)”
OK, but just the one problem – this was not from Hardie, who confirmed this with Health24, saying she “would like to put on record that this voicenote was not from me or any other virologist at Groote Schuur Hospital”.
At first, the original source of the voicenote was a mystery but has since been confirmed to be a message from a concerned young doctor, sent to her mother, that was not meant to be shared.
Again from Health24:
Health24 can confirm that the recording was not meant to be circulated, but was meant for the mother of the person who recorded it, only.
On the voicenote, the person speaking refers often to Professor Zilla, which Health24 further established was Professor Peter Zilla, head of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Chris Barnard Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
After reaching out to Professor Zilla, he confirmed that the voicenote was not intended to be shared.
“This was a private message of a young doctor to her mother to scare her into staying home, as she falls into a high-risk group,” Professor Zilla told Health24.
It was never meant to end up as an objective truth on social media, he said.
This was either a case of broken telephone, with the voicenote being shared and the misinformation being unwittingly added at some stage along the chain, or it was a malicious intent to sow panic and fear.
At the same time, the voicenote was not a complete hoax, recorded by somebody with the intent to spread fake news and misinformation, because it was actually a young doctor sending a genuine message to her mother.
Voicenote – genuine. Added information about it being from Dr Diana Hardie, a top expert at Groote Schuur Hospital – fake news.
However this came to happen, I think we can all agree that everyone should exercise extreme caution at present, before sending this sort of thing around.
The government has warned of repercussions for people who create and spread fake news.
On the government’s website, it clearly says: “Anyone that creates or spreads fake news about the coronavirus Covid-19 is liable for prosecution. Verify the information before you share information.”
For legal reasons, and also because you don’t want to be the person that sows undue panic at a time when so many are already fearful of what the future holds.
Check your sources, verify your information (these resources are a good place to start), and ONLY THEN, consider sharing the information you have received with others.
Here are some helpful numbers and contacts to be aware of:
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